(2-minute read)

One tagline for Kindred SF Homes is “Where you belong.” Meaning “You are welcome and included. Your home and your needs matter. I’m here to serve. My door is open to you.”

In fact, the motto could be “We never close.” Our proverbial shop is seldom shuttered. My outgoing voicemail greeting promises a reply within two hours. I respond to emails almost instantly. I work long days, 7 days a week.

Occasionally I take a vacation. And, even then, I will answer the phone. Like I did a few weeks ago while driving down a lonely stretch of Highway 26 in a rural part of Oregon with my partner K. We were post hike, weary and dusty. I’d pulled on my down vest because the July heat had turned suddenly cool. In the distance, big black clouds were dumping snow on the mountaintops. K was snoozing in the passenger seat.

“Hello, it’s Cynthia.”

“Hello? My name is Dan and I’m calling because I received your postcard announcing your new listing in the Richmond.”

{This is usually a fun call to receive. A prospective customer – someone new to me – responding to costly, ongoing marketing efforts. It immediately eases some of the guilt and anxiety I feel about taking time off. When I get back to San Francisco, there’s a new opportunity waiting!}

“Yes, how can I help?”

“Well, I just wanted to let you know that every time I receive your cards it just makes me feel depressed. Really depressed. It’s really discouraging,” he says.

“Oh, dear, I am so sorry about that. It’s not my intention to cause anyone distress. That’s the last thing I want to do,” I say.

We’re on speaker and my partner rouses, looks at me with curiosity and sympathy.

“We’re a family of four,” he continues, “And we are renters. We have a small apartment and we are never going to be able to afford a home in the city. My wife and I have teaching jobs and we have two kids. We’re not in tech and we’ll never make enough money to buy. It’s just really depressing is all I can say. If we want to own we’re going to have to leave the city.”

{Here’s where my sloppy Buddhist practice kicks in. I take a quick Tonglen drag of air to pull in compassion for myself – over the distress his plight is causing me – and I exhale compassion for Dan.}

“Gosh, I don’t even know what to say except that I’m really sorry. It’s never my wish to cause anyone pain, and I know that there are so many people who can’t afford a home in San Francisco. If you’ll tell me your name or address I can take you off the mailing…”

He interrupts, “It’s just really depressing,” and hangs up.

The road is rolling out in front of me. The windshield wipers are thudding. And I’m sitting at the center of suffering. Mine. His. My partner’s. All suffering for all time. There’s nothing I can do except breathe with compassion.

I think to myself that the tagline “Where you belong” isn’t a one-size-fits-all phrase. Relatively few people who live or work in San Francisco have enough money to buy real estate. And  — worldwide – there are plenty of people who don’t have enough money for any sort of shelter, or any food for that matter.

Something to be mindful about.

Photo Credit: Devon Janse van Rensburg 

Cynthia Cummins is the founder of Kindred SF Homes and has been serving homeowners and homebuyers for 3 decades. For information on San Francisco Bay Area real estate visit KindredSFhomes.com. For my writing and mindfulness blog, visit WildHeartWriting.org.